Guilty until proved innocent
We do not yet know whether Chris Jefferies is guilty of any crime. He has been arrested on suspicion of murder but, as I write, he has not been charged -- as the headmaster of his old school, Clifton College, has rightly stressed. Even if he had been charged, he would be guilty only when a court had found him so. That's the point of the old "innocent until proved guilty" adage.
But if he is innocent, the press coverage of the last day or so will, nonetheless, have more or less ruined his life; and if he is formally charged, heaven knows what it will have done to his chances of a fair trial. Everything about him has become a target for innuendo and prurient speculation and allegations -- from the colour of his hair to his sexuality, politics, teaching methods and alleged voyeurism. We have no idea which, if any, of these claims are true. But two things are certain: first, 99% of us have no good information on which to judge the reliability of what is being published about this man; second, even if they were true, such claims are not evidence of guilt or innocence (and, if they were, they should in any case wait to be heard in court, not blazoned over the newspapers).
Maybe suspects often get this kind of press treatment; I dont honestly remember. But I have a feeling that this particular coverage has got something to do with the time of year.
This seems to have been a horrible murder; and one's heart goes out to the victim, her family and friends. Yet at the same time, the uncomfortable truth is that news of it has come into our living rooms as if it were a ready made Christmas murder mystery.
In reponse to the drip drip of information released by the police, families across the land have turned themselves into amateur sleuths. I know ours has. What could have happened to the pizza? Was it odd that she bought two bottles of cider, not one? Why not buy anything in Waitrose? And so on.
Anyone arrested under suspicion was bound to provide even more grist to the mill -- to be more fodder for our now roused curiosities. Even the dignified Head of Clifton, who was not even in post when Mr Jefferies was teaching there, seems to have had more than his fair share of hounding (as you can see on the right)
It must have been the worst Christmas imaginable for the family of Jo Yeates; but I cant help reflecting that the holiday season was a pretty bad time to be arrested on suspicion.
. . . . Aah good. I have just noticed before posting this that the Attorney General has also been reading the papers with some concern.